Snowbirds return to 15 Wing still grieving, but with wide community support

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds returned to 15 Wing in Moose Jaw on Monday, the city they've called home for decades.

Public affairs officer Capt. Jenn Casey died when the plane she was in crashed shortly after take off in B.C.

Police, paramedics, fire crews and civilians gather at the exhibition grounds in Moose Jaw to welcome the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, flying together in C-130 Hercules, home on Monday, May 25, 2020. The Snowbirds were grounded after Capt. Jennifer Casey was killed in a crash in Kamloops on May 17. (Mark Taylor/The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds returned to 15 Wing in Moose Jaw, Sask., on Monday with one less team member, but embraced by a city ready to show its love, support and appreciation.

Tragedy struck the team on May 17 when Capt. Jenn Casey, the team's public affairs officer, died after one of the Snowbird planes crashed shortly after takeoff from Kamloops, B.C.

The aerial acrobats had been travelling across Canada for Operation Inspiration, a thank you to frontline health-care workers who are currently treating patients through the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're proud to call them home but they're Canada's team," said Fraser Tolmie, mayor of Moose Jaw, on Monday. The team members live and work in Moose Jaw, he noted.

"I think this is a way of paying back to the Snowbirds and showing how much we care about them as they've shown how much they care about our country."

The team was grounded after the crash, which also injured Snowbird pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall, two weeks into Operation Inspiration. They arrived aboard a Hercules transportation plane.

The Snowbirds were grounded after the May 17th crash. Operation Inspiration about two weeks prior, as a thank you to frontline health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Radio-Canada)

They had flown in from Halifax, where Casey was being honoured the day before. The body of Casey had been returned to her home province on Sunday.

"When they hurt we hurt and, so you know, our community rallies," Tolmie said. "It's one of the great things about being proud of our city is is that we do care."

Civilians watch from a rooftop as a C-130 Hercules carrying the Snowbirds return home to Moose Jaw, Sask. on Monday, May 25, 2020. (Mark Taylor/The Canadian Press)

The Snowbirds are an iconic part of the community that draws out pride from locals, according to Kelly Boisclair, who drew a heart in chalk on sidewalks with her two children.

"Our church loves them and we're showing them support for what you're they're going through," Boisclair said.

Kelly Boisclair speaks to Radio-Canada in Moose Jaw on Monday. She is accompanied by Dave Boisclair, right, her two daughters, and Ojey Calolot, top left. A display of support was created on the sidewalk in front of the church Boisclair attends. (Radio-Canada)

Boisclair says her daughters saw the Snowbirds for the first time this year. When they hear a plane, they now say "the Snowbirds are here."

"It's so cool," one of the Boisclair offspring added.

Moose Jaw has been the home to the Snowbirds for decades and its members have lived and worked in the community, who are now rallying around them in support, said Mayor Fraser Tolmie. (Radio-Canada)

With files from Radio-Canada and Andrea Ross


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